The Accessible Technology Skills Gap
In December 2017 PEAT hosted an in-person meeting of our Think Tank to explore key issues related to accessible workplace technology in rich facilitated discussions and working groups throughout the day. The 63 participants represented the diverse perspectives of employers, technology developers, universities, and tech users with disabilities.
One major theme we heard throughout this meeting was that companies are struggling to fill job openings because not enough prospective employees have accessible technology skills. Job candidates are graduating from computer science programs and other fields without ever learning about accessibility in their curricula, or are coming from other companies where they did not gain any experience in the realm of accessible technology.
So where do we go from here? Based on the solutions generated by Think Tank meeting attendees for closing the skills gap, PEAT has begun taking action on the following recommendations:
Collect feedback from companies to document the full extent of the accessible technology skills gap.
This May we asked our partner organizations to tell us about accessible technology skill levels in their organizations. See a summary of our findings and the corresponding infographic.
Work with colleges and universities to expand curriculum to include accessible technology skills.
Earlier this year PEAT began providing direct support to Teach Access to help them build resources and amplify their message. PEAT is also helping Teach Access administer grants awarded to faculty members hoping to infuse accessibility principles into their existing courses.
Scale and expand the Teach Access model to address the skills gap by offering students opportunities for “study away” training and job experience programs with tech companies.
The inaugural Teach Access Study Away program recently brought together faculty, industry partners and 25 students from four universities to explore the field of accessibility in Silicon Valley. The program equips students to be advocates of accessibility, build their professional networks, and learn about accessibility career paths.
Apprenticeship programs are on the rise due to employer demand and proven results. In June 2017 an Executive Order called for the nationwide expansion of apprenticeship programs to be led by the Department of Labor (DOL). To support these goals, PEAT and the DOL-funded IT apprenticeship intermediary Apprenti are partnering to build bridges between the technology industry and inclusive apprenticeship programs.